LIVINGSTON — The fever hit when he was in elementary school.
Daniel Poole would tag along with his father to pro rodeos. What started as precious time spent between father and son eventually led Poole to a career he would have never dreamed possible then.
Last week the University of West Alabama announced that Poole, 32, has been promoted from assistant wrangler coach to the Tigers' head rodeo coach.
“If you would have told me at 10 years old that this is where I’d be, I’d have never believed it,” said the UWA all-region wrangler. “In my mind, it’s like a kid who wants to grow up to be a rock star and all of a sudden you’re playing in front of 100,000 people. I worked hard to accomplish things and get to where I am. I set my goals high. Growing up, I didn’t come from a rodeo family. Neither of my parents rodeoed. None of my family did. I started from scratch and worked my way up the ladder one step at a time. I always had faith I could do it. I didn’t know that big of a dream would become a reality.”
His climb began as a kid in Meridian, Mississippi.
“My Daddy has always had cows,” said Poole, who himself has a herd on family land in Emelle, Alabama, a community close to Livingston. “He used to haul me to the pro rodeo shows in Lauderdale, Mississippi. I used to go and watch with him.”
It wasn’t a stretch for Poole to take to rodeo. He confesses that from the time he was 3 years old, he wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat everywhere.
He begged his dad for a horse, and, when Poole was 9, his father surprised him by buying a horse that was among the livestock being sold at a cow sale.
“He was just a broke pasture horse. His name was Thunder. I was of course very excited. Wanting to be a cowboy was all I’d ever wanted since I was a kid.”
Thunder passed away when Poole was around 12, and, shortly after, into his life and the family pasture came Moonshine. Then came Reno when Poole was 16. That’s when the fever really took hold.
“A good buddy of mine in high school was a calf roper. We started roping some at his house. My mom and dad saw how much I enjoyed it and set up lessons with a guy in DeKalb,” said the three-sport 2005 Lamar (Miss.) High School graduate.
The lessons led to his first calf-roping competition about a year later.
“I was a little overwhelmed, excited for the opportunity,” Poole said of that first competition. “I did not do well. I wish I had a great story about how I won. But it inspired me to go home to work harder at it. I watched guys rope who were really good. That’s who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be that guy who lost everywhere he went. Losing isn’t a very good feeling. I’ve always been competitive. I like to win.”
He went home, continued his lessons and spent hours in his family’s garage every night roping a plastic steer.
“I’d rope it until my mom came and told me to come inside and get to bed,” Poole said.
His dedication led him to UWA’s rodeo team and his introduction to bull riding.
“I came to UWA to team rope. Because of my size and build (5-foot-7, 160), they had me start riding bulls. I kind of naturally took to it. I rode the first three I got on. From then on, bull riding became my main event. Team roping came second.”
Hopping on a bull takes a bit of bravery.
“That first time is a big blur,” Poole said. “You’re supposed to ride for eight seconds, and I rode the first three (the full eight seconds). But, yeah, it was a big blur that first time. I couldn’t tell you a lot about it. But I liked it. I liked the excitement of it. I liked the adrenaline part. I grew up watching all those bull riders at the pro rodeos, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world when they’d ride a bull and throw their hat and get all excited. Ever since I was little, I’d wanted to be a bull rider more than anything.”
He was on UWA’s rodeo team from 2006-09, finishing among the top five in bull riding in the Ozark Region his sophomore through senior years. He was the Bull Riding Director for the Ozark Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association in 2009.
After graduation, he continued competing, qualifying six times for the Professional Cowboys Association’s finals and qualifying for the Professional Rodeo Circuit Association Southeastern Circuit finals, among other top performances.
He worked out west for a few years but, when the assistant coaching job at UWA opened up in 2015, he answered the call to come home.
“It couldn’t have been better timing,” Poole said. “At the time I was building up a herd here (in Emelle). I was already trying to come back this way, finding a job opportunity. My mom and dad were taking care of my cows, and that was weighing on me. It was my dream job. It couldn’t have been any more perfect.”
Until now. When Poole accepted UWA’s head job, one of the first people he told was the man who introduced him to the world of rodeo.
“My father does group therapy for people with Alzheimer’s and things like that. I texted him and said I got the job. He texted me back that he told everybody, all his patients and stuff, and he said they started whoopin’ and hollerin’. He and my mom are, without a doubt, my biggest fans.”